Solita Project Lead Manifesto, part 2: We value team well-being above all

Mari Kumpulainen Project Lead, Solita

Published 09 Jun 2023

Reading time 9 min

Lately, we have been pondering, what is well-being actually? At least a widely discussed matter nowadays and numerous companies advertise the importance of work-life balance and the well-being of their employees. 

Still yet, issues in working environments or company cultures and expectations occur and the number of mental health based sick leaves increase. What should be done once it is detected that well-being of the employee(s) is not on the proper level?

Obviously, there is not one simple answer to these questions and well-being may include a variety of different things for different individuals in different phases of life. Hence, it is not possible for one person alone to define how well-being is understood and experienced in working life.

That is why we wanted to give a voice to the people in our competence community and sat down with some of our colleagues, aiming to learn what well-being means to them and how Solita fulfills hopes and needs when it comes to their own well-being factors as well as ability to monitor and take care of the well-being of the hard-working members in their teams.

We were happy to discover Solitans strongly feel they are genuinely cared for and there are many known actions, not just words, to prove that ensuring the well-being of our people truly is in the very core of our everyday values. We can’t say we would have been totally free from situations where the workload on one person has grown too heavy to carry, but we as a community have learned from those cases and are even more eager to implement more preventative measures to avoid such from happening again.

Keep reading to find out more about thoughts and experiences on how well-being is promoted at Solita.

Building trust and creating a safe environment for open discussion

At Solita, the recently launched Project Lead Manifesto gives guidelines and clarifies company values as well as expectations set for us in Project Lead roles. It has been put together based on the information and feedback collected in numerous interviews with current Solitans. These interviews brought up the existence of one, very clear consensus in the Project Lead community: team well-being is valued above all.

“It was almost surprising to detect, how strongly Project Leads across the business units shared the same thoughts about willingness to ensure their team’s well-being. That’s a strong message.”
-Mari P., People Lead and one of the forces behind Project Lead Manifesto

When asked, both our Project Leads and tech experts listed similar thoughts about the factors of well-being. From the Project Lead point of view, the main objective is to observe and foster the mental well-being of our team members. On a daily basis this means e.g., ensuring a well-flowing and meaningful work mode as well as clear targets on projects. Experience has taught us that shady guidelines and constant struggle with lack of crucial information can become a Debby Downer for the team’s motivation levels.

So, how do we stay aware and informed about how people in our teams are doing? An unspoken idea about caring about them is not quite enough, right? The key word is communication.

Open and honest communication has shown to be a key factor in teams in which people have felt most content. In agile working environments, short daily meetings give just a small slice of time pie for each team member to share their thoughts and get questions answered. This requires some effort from Scrum Masters and Project Leads; we are ought to observe and sense the atmosphere along with changes in team energy during meetings.

Remote working has set new challenges in sensing the finest tones and expressions of people and it’s not always easy to detect changes that might indicate increasing stress levels or workloads growing too heavily. This is why ‘How are you, really?’ is one of the most important questions a Project Lead can and should ask.

This brings us to another key thing found important: having enough time to be a leader. To have time to ask and to really hear, how are the people in your team doing. Recurring one on one -discussions and team retrospectives offer opportunities for sharing ups and downs on the road, mostly work related, sometimes more personal.

One of our highly experienced Project Leads underlined the importance of indicating that team members can always approach their Lead and someone will be there, truly present, for them when needed. Not hurrying to the next meeting or fulfilling so called more important tasks but having time to refill the coffee cup and sit down to listen. Keeping your promises and honest interest towards team helps to build trust, and trust supports the feeling of not being alone and being accepted.

Trustful relationships also feed honest communication, making it easier to mention even the elephant in the room or to book a private moment to ask for a day off when it has been a rough couple of weeks (or days).

Pro tip box

How to further advance team well-being as a Project Lead?

  • Have your eyes and ears open

  • 1:1 discussions, make time to really get to know your team members

  • Lead by example and demonstrate that no one needs to face challenges alone

  • Be curious on how to further develop your team’s dynamics

  • Support and facilitate team member’s career development urges

Well-being as a business driver and beyond

There are more than a handful of studies that demonstrate well enough how investing in employees’ well-being leads to higher productivity, engagement, and innovation. A fact that sounds quite common sense, at least in our opinion, but is yet somehow ignored by so many organisations as part of their strategic planning and decision-making. This is a point where all our interviewees felt Solita has done its homework. The project leads shared a view that people who feel that their well-being is important to the employer simply produce better results. This important lesson came from their own living examples from the multiple projects they have been running. Solita being in the consultancy business has recognised that the greatest asset is its employees. Without all these amazing and talented people working together towards a shared vision and goals, there would just be no business. As simple as that.

A lot of the well-being at workplaces is related to how people in the organisation see and feel about each other. What are the responsibilities of each individual working in that community. The people we interviewed told us that Solita has succeeded in creating such a community where people want to contribute and look after each other. So, we must congratulate our recruiting folks here! When you experience that you are treated well in every situation (especially in difficult ones) you are more likely to treat others in the same way and spread the positive effects further. Solita offers tools for individuals to develop self-awareness and co-create well-being through various training options. At Solita we have a selection of courses that aim to improve soft skills, a lot of them provided to the community by the community.

In the end it all boils down to culture. When team well-being is a true priority within the organization it naturally leads to a more positive work atmosphere and human-centric culture. This in turn encourages and supports people to do their best at work as they feel like they are part of a community they want to give back to. Creating this type of culture does not come top-down but is a shared responsibility of every Solitan. It is also not something that was built once in the past and hence will continue to exist automatically. We all need to make the decision every single day to care and to be committed. Especially in the tougher times and challenging moments.

“I worked on a fixed-price project, which was quite stressful due to the tight targets. Our Project Lead at the time was successful in supporting people, prioritized their wellbeing and ensured we did not have to exhaust ourselves.”
-Toni D., Senior Software Designer at Solita

How is well-being nurtured at Solita?

One of Solita’s core values is ‘caring’. This was emphasized also when putting together our Project Lead Manifesto, and it is well seen in our ways of working and communicating with our colleagues.

A heartwarming thing at Solita is the friendly, welcoming, and accepting atmosphere. We come across colleagues with a smile on our faces and share a mutual goal to create a humane and supporting place for working. These behavioral matters come from individuals as well as from the company culture absorbed and put into practice by individuals, but what other ways does Solita take care of both the mental and physical well-being of its employees?

Clearly work-wise, a crucial matter to keep motivation levels high is the possibility of each to affect on their own career path and working opportunities. Solita aims to give employees an option to choose the position and project they wish to work in. Finding a suitable place for each creates a feeling of having a true purpose and creating value. Both are known to enhance motivation and productivity, since people are more content when they can do things they feel most skilful at.

Another important point is to give room for personal growth and development. This could mean rotation in and out of projects, changing the direction of career paths or widening skill sets by different certifications and self-learning options. One can gain a pair of shoes as big as one likes.

Along well-being within working hours, Solita encourages employees to connect and be active in their free time too. Spending time with your colleagues doesn’t always have to happen between office walls. One can find like-minded people and gather for a football match as well as playing boardgames or knitting socks while having movie nights. Solita supports this type of leisure time activities financially and people are encouraged to create new hobby clubs for different interests.

A wide range of hobby clubs is a known thing for us; there’s almost everything from ice-swimming enthusiasts to Anonymous PlayStation Addicts as well as beer crafters. Just name it and pick yours.

“In my experience, our values can be seen every day. Co-workers sincerely care about each other and treat everyone politely and with respect. I have always dared to ask questions and been encouraged to do so too.”
-Markus, Senior Software Developer at Solita

While certain daily observations and actions by colleagues and Project Leads are crucial for maintaining humane values and supporting well-being at work, sometimes even the shoulders of the most determined co-workers are not strong enough to cry on, and one might need help and support from professionals. Working life nowadays is hectic and many of us have behavioural patterns or beliefs that might be toxic and drive us towards burnouts.

We are not even trying to say burnouts never have happened at Solita, but sincerely try to find ways to prevent those situations in future instead, as well as to offer suitable help and support when needed. A remarkable part of this is offering a wide range of mental health services via occupational healthcare. Medical mental health professionals, short-term therapy and coaching sessions are available for all Solitans.

A quick and easy option to talk through some specific issue confidentially, is to book a session with our Auntie, an internal mental health professional at Solita. However, it is far from exceptional for us co-workers to discuss mental health-related topics at the coffee table. Among Solitans one does not have to worry to gain a negative stigma when handling mental health issues, burnout, exhaustion or other bumps on the path of life. Quite the contrary, openness and honesty regarding personal experiences and lessons learned are appreciated.

The key message we wish to share is that nobody is expected to go through struggles alone: sharing is caring!

Curious to hear more about how our manifesto manifests itself in actual project work? Stay tuned for the next posts in this series, which will drill deeper into each of the values!

Want to join Solita? See our open positions.

  1. Culture